The Ultimate Valentine


be-mine-heart-for-amenandehmen

Whether you are single or paired on this Valentine’s Day, this is a day we celebrate the very heartbeat of God: LOVE!

Remember what Jesus told us in Matthew 22: 34-40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

And, as far as Valentine’s go, you can’t get any sweeter or more perfect than our precious and glorious Lord who loves us beyond compare, without condition, forever and ever. And He’s all yours for the asking.

If you haven’t yet, why not today? The day of LOVE.

Just say something like this:

“Lord, I don’t necessarily understand it all and I’m not sure what to do next, but I do believe in You and that You love me so much that you sent your one and only son, Jesus, so that we all could be forgiven of our sins and have everlasting life. I believe He died on the cross for me, to save me. You did for me what I couldn’t do for myself. I come to You now and ask You to take control of my life. I give it to You. Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you. I love you, Lord, and thank you that I will spend all eternity with you.

Lord, will you be my Valentine?”

Amen and Ehmen.

And a Happy Hearts Day to all! Much love from http://www.amenandehmen.com.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John, 3:16

 

The Doctor is In.


Note: My work high-jacked all my time and energy again, but now that I have a moment, I wanted to post the last two days of my 7-day commitment to spend time with God every morning. Though it was a long 85-hour work week and it was extremely tough on me physically at times, I can honestly say that this extra focused time on God helped carry me through with spirits intact. He is the Great Physician. Looking forward to continuing to connect with Him on the written page. Be blessed.

February 7, 2017

7:00 AM

Dear God, it is Day 6 of my commitment to meet you here daily for seven consecutive days. Unfortunately, I only have about 30 minutes this morning as I have to get to the office. Fortunately, I dear godknow that I can learn and do more in just a few minutes with you versus years without you. You are incredible and I am happy that you are in my life and in me. This morning, God, I pray to you about the way I’m feeling physically. Please help me to bring all things going on in my body back into order. My week ahead for work is intense as you know and it will be very difficult to maneuver it feeling like this. I love you, dear God, and it is in your son’s name that I pray. Amen and Ehmen.

Dear Child,

I’m sorry you are not feeling well, but you have come to the right place. You live in a fallen world and your body is susceptible to all kinds of undesirable things. But, as long as you stay close to me, I will help you navigate even the most menacing of them. Healing, my child, comes in many forms. Sometimes I simply wipe out the illness as you, yourself, have experienced. Sometimes I use medicines and physicians. Sometimes it is immediate and sometimes it takes time, as I know you have also experienced. Your job is to believe, to trust in me, and be thankful in both cases. Trust, dear child, is an area that you struggle with and that is okay. As long as you come to me, I will continue to teach you as long as it takes. We are in this together. You must always remember that.

  Isaiah 41:10

Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
“For I am with you

 

A Bittersweet Love Story


Dear God, as I continue to reflect on this Easter season, I ask that you help the words flow dear godfrom the deepest recesses of my soul, the inner places where You dwell in all Your holiness and righteousness. Thank you for sending Your son and for Him taking on human suffering and death just so that we could live with You forever. I am overwhelmed by Your grace and love for me and, though I am eternally sorry for my sins and shortcomings, I am eternally grateful for Your grace and forgiveness and, most especially, your gift of salvation, wrapped in the arms of Jesus and presented to us freely. All we have to do is believe and accept, both of which I do, wholeheartedly. Thank you, Jesus, for what You endured; for Your obedience to the Father, no matter what; and for making a way for me. May I become more and more like You as the seconds and minutes tick past. I don’t want to waste any more time. Help me to stay focused on Your will and purpose. Father, Your will be done, on earth and in me, just as it is in Heaven. Amen and Ehmen.

A Bittersweet Love Story

As His son hung on the cross, bloodied by the hands of man and scoffed at by the evil and lost, God was certainly saddened in the moment—saddened by the state of His creation that brought everything down to this very moment. A moment perhaps best described as a necessary evil and one that would change the destiny of humankind forever; a new and jesus on crossfoolproof way for the very ones that were created in God’s own image to live forever in His Presence. It was and is the invitation of all invitations and it is extended to each and every one of us.

As one who has accepted that invitation, this Easter season finds my heart and mind naturally harkening back to the pivotal events that would forevermore open Heaven’s doorway to the likes of me and you; to sinners saved by grace and grace alone.

Yes, it was part of God’s plan that His Son would die on that cross so that we could live forever in His Presence. But, though it was always a part of His plan, doesn’t mean that it was easy. Jesus, though the Son of God, was fully a man, born to a human mother and into flesh and body just like you and me. He needed air and food just like us and he felt pain like us as well. And the cross undoubtedly created agonizing, horrific pain–pain which He in no way deserved, but humbly accepted out of pure love for us. Which one of us is not heartbroken that he had to endure such torture for us? But, at the same time, who could not be completely filled and overjoyed that he did it so that we could dwell in the presence of our Lord forever?

To me, it is indeed the epitome of a bittersweet love story; that right there in the middle of the cross where God’s heart hung in the balance, wrath and judgement met mercy and lost and found imageforgiveness and our invitation to dwell with Him forever was permanently engraved and then sealed with the blood of His one and only son and our sweet, sweet Savior.

Thank you, sweet Jesus. Thank you. May my life be a testament of my undying gratitude and may Your Glory shine through me until the day I, too, take my last breath on earth. Amen and Ehmen!

The Day In Between


It’s sometimes called Holy Saturday, the Great Sabbath, Black Saturday and Easter Eve. But what is today, really?

Well, I think today—the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday—is just that,jesus on cross the day in between.

The silent day that lay mournfully and mysteriously between the brutal crucifixion of our Lord and Savior and His joyous resurrection. The day between a promise and its fulfillment.

I can’t even begin to imagine how those who loved and followed Jesus must have felt on this day; just hours before having watched as God’s own promise hung tethered to a rugged cross; bloody; lifeless; hopeless.

I just can’t even imagine how they felt when the world’s only hope that God Himself had so lovingly poured into the flesh of a baby more than three decades prior was taken down from the cross, a crumpled and shattered shell; breathless; dead.

Oh the grief, the fear, and the sense of loss they must have felt. Their friend and Messiah was gone and laying in a tomb; his bruised and battered body as well as their hopes and dreams swaddled in burial clothes and sealed in darkness.

I just can’t even imagine.

But, wait, you might say. What about the miracle of Jesus’ birth and all the miracles and prophecies fulfilled throughout Jesus’ life on earth. What about all the wonders—the feeding of thousands from a single lunch; the healings; the raising of Lazarus from the dead? Can you even imagine how in the world the men and women who witnessed these miracles could even spend one day doubting, grieving, hiding, scattered, and scared?

You know, at first I thought I couldn’t imagine that at all. That is, until I realized that we live in this same place every day. We live in the in-between day, suspended between the promise and the fulfillment and, just like the disciples and those who knew Jesus as a man, we doubt; we grieve; we hide; we scatter; and we certainly fear. We, too, search for hope in a dark world. We, too, sometimes lose our trust that God can make something holy and beautiful and good out of a world that often looks more like hell than the creation of a good God. We wonder how or even if He will bring beauty and order to a universe spiraling out of control. We, too, have moments of doubt. Or least I know I do.

But, thank God, for tomorrow; for Easter Sunday and the empty tomb which has become an everlasting symbol of a promise fulfilled; the rebirth of hope for all the generations to come; for the disciples; for the early churches, for all our descendants and for you and for me.

Thank God for His promise of everlasting life which eternally lives in the breath of His one and only son, Jesus Christ, and for the unyielding sacrifice Jesus made so that we can enjoy that promise just by believing in Him. I believe in Him and I hope that you do, too.

And, if you are still just checking the whole Jesus thing out, I pray that He will open your heart and eyes so that you, too, can take part in the miracle of Easter and the promise of everlasting life. God loves you. He always has and always will. You are His child and he really wants to have a relationship with you. But, you have to do something. You have to take the step and ask Him into your heart. He is not going to do it without an invitation from you. You yourself have to acknowledge that Jesus is your Lord and Savior and that he died on the cross so that you can have eternal life. You yourself have to accept Him and invite Him into your heart.

When you’re ready, you just have to say a prayer something like this. It doesn’t have to be word for word and you don’t even have to understand it all. And you certainly don’t have to be perfect, for no one on earth is perfect. Just say something like this:

“Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. Please forgive me for my sins. I believe that your son, the Lord Jesus Christ, died to pay for my sins and I trust Him now as my personal Lord and Savior. I ask Him to come into my life. Amen.”

It’s that simple. If you pray this prayer and truly accept the Lord Jesus as your personal savior, you can be assured of going to heaven. No matter what you have done on earth; no matter what you did in your past, you will be reborn and resurrected and headed for everlasting life alongside the Almighty Creator, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Oh, my, what a way to celebrate this day in between! Congratulations and welcome to the family! Amen and Ehmen! And Happy, Happy Easter! 🙂

And The Word of God Says:

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (NIV)

Romans 1:4-5 And Jesus Christ our Lord was shown to be the Son of God when God powerfully raised him from the dead by means of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. Romans 6:8-11 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Philippians 3:10-12 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (NIV)

1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (NIV)

Matthew 27:50-53 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (NIV)

Matthew 28:1-10 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (NIV)

Mark 16:1-8 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ “

 

The Tree That Couldn’t Leave…


christmas tree art

I’m always reluctant to take down my Christmas tree. Needle-less to say, there have been some years where I could practically vacuum it up. I seem to be heading that way again this year.

I just love the smell and the twinkling lights; not to mention the ornaments that tell the story of a half a century of Christmas’ past. I love the angel that stands guard atop the tree and the faded, but jolly old Santa that has been the first ornament on the tree every year since I was old enough to help decorate. I love the color and the vibrancy.

But, most of all, I love what the tree stands for; the season that it celebrates. Sometimes I imagine that on that night over 2,000 years ago when God sent his own son into this world as a tiny little baby, that the stars fell from the heavens just so they could be closer to Him. Like snowflakes, they fell gently upon the trees, lighting each branch in love, awe and celebration.

Yes, I sure wish I could just leave it up all year; but I know that eventually, it will have to come down. Today is not that day, however. And, for that reason, I can’t help but smile. Merry Christmas to all and to all a happy and healthy 2016!

 

Immeasurable, Infinite and Ours


January 3, 2015 6:35 AM

Dear Lord, thank you for waking me up this morning to draw me closer to dear godyou and to remind me just how wide, how long, how high and how deep your love is for me; for all of us. I have admittedly distanced myself off and on over these past few months as I have struggled quietly and internally with the changes in my world. I know that I am not immune to suffering, yet when I need you most, I sometimes do exactly what I have always reminded others not to do. I pull away. I don’t seek your face. I try to live in my own power. At times, I have been swallowed by doubt; not disbelief in you, but doubt that your promises are really for me; that your healing and comfort are for me; that I can really find joy in fulfilling my purpose and that I even have the tools to do so. I have continued to live in fear that my health will not hold up, that I will be stripped of what I have before I am able to finish what you started in me. I don’t want to live in fear anymore, Lord. I need you today more than ever. In this moment and in every moment that I draw breath on this earth. Come closer than ever, Father. Settle into my heart and deep into my soul. Send your Holy Spirit and allow Him to intermingle with my spirit. Speak to me. Comfort me. Heal me. Empower me. Use me. I love you with all my being, my dear Father, and I want nothing more than to please you. Keep me focused on you, Lord. Please. It is in Your One and Only Son’s Name that I pray. Amen and Ehmen.

Oh my dear, dear child,

I do love you so and I’ve missed our whole-heart time together. Just know that, regardless of whether you sit with Me in front of this page or not, I AM with you, always until the end of time and until such time that you are with Me in Heaven. I led you to Ephesians 3 this morning because, until the latter happens, I need you to truly understand the full breadth, length, height and depth of My love for you.

My love reaches across the width of all of time and space; from the heavens to all corners of the earth, covering all expanses and all people who live today and who have or will ever live; and that, of course, includes you right now where you are.

My love expands across the lengths of eternity. It started long before you were born, even before creation itself, and will continue forevermore.

My love reaches high into the heavens. It is infinite. It is with you at the heights of your life; in your elations and your celebrations.

My love delves deep, deeper than any pit of discouragement or despair in which you could ever linger and even deeper still. The fact is, my child, nothing, not even death can take my love from you for I HAVE DEFEATED DEATH in Jesus’ name…all so that your name could be written in the Book of Life.

If you never grasp anything else, I need you to grasp this. And by grasp, I don’t mean grab and hold on, but to understand; to truly understand, My blessed one, that once you have invited Me into your heart, you don’t have or need to do anything to hold onto My love. It is My love instead that holds onto you…for eternity.

Lay your doubts down, My child, and bask in my never-ending, unyielding love today. Don’t try to measure it, because you can’t. Just experience it; live in it; and let it live in you so that others will be drawn to Me and My Kingdom will be made complete. Go forth—go wide, go long, go high, go deep— to share this Good News to those around you; the Good News that they don’t have do anything to gain or hold My love; for, through belief in my son, Jesus Christ, they and My love will live on forever and beyond.

And, the Word of God says in Ephesians, Chapter 3, Verses 14-21:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Oh, dear God. Amen and Ehmen! Thank you for the endless love and never-ending reminders. I guess I can’t hear it enough and I thank you for being willing to keep telling me over and over and over again. Can I just say this, Abba Father? You seriously rock!

And to the others that agree, can I get an Amen and Ehmen!???? Have a blessed day knowing that you are LOVED! 🙂

It’s an Expectation Situation…


Just like most of the world, I find that my dear friend and I are struggling with things. Different things, but things just the same. While talking the other day, I told her that I think many of our struggles and disappointments come from expectations. Having expectations of people, places and things. When they don’t measure up to what we have created in our minds, we are let down and we struggle. And, often times, we wallow.

But, today, I have been thinking that perhaps this isn’t the problem at all. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not our expectations which create the problem. Maybe, just maybe, it’s that our expectations fall short. They are too small; not near big enough. The fact is, God has promised us eternal life in the most beautiful, most peaceful place; a place so incredible that it is beyond human imagination. And, as children of God, we are told to EXPECT this promise to come true; to live with expectation of this very promise.

But to all who did receive him,

Lord, I ask that you help those of us who struggle with this expectation problem; who let things and expectations, small in comparison, distract us from the only expectation that really matters…eternal life with You. Even when things seem to be falling apart; even when things and life as we know it, have already fallen apart, we are incredibly and indescribably blessed. You sent Your son for us and Your son, not willing to take the easy way out, lived and walked on this same earth that we walk. He then died a criminal’s death…all for us. Thank you for giving us such ultimate expectation and hope. We ask that you continue to bear with us as we stumble along the journey to You. Please keep reminding us that when we can’t see, hear or feel you, it’s not that you aren’t there. It’s simply that we need to refocus our expectations. We love you. Amen and Ehmen.

Leaving a Blessing


As the temperatures cool and the world sports the colors of the Thanksgiving season, it’s always nice to take pause and thank God for our many blessings. And there is so very much to be thankful for. Leaves, for example. Starting as a tiny bud, new leaves spring forth around Easter time each year, literally breathing life into the world, not only preserving our very existence, but also providing us shade along the way. Indeed, every single leaf has an important, life-giving, life-preserving job. Perhaps that is why God gives them such a beautiful and colorful exit every fall. This year, as the leaves around you burst into an array of breath-taking colors, take a moment to thank God for them. And as they take their final bows, falling from the trees carried by the gentle winds of November, send up a bountiful round of applause straight from earth’s stage to Heaven’s ears.

Flying High: From Earth to Heaven.


vapor trail and neil for blogWriter’s Note: As I stepped outside, my eyes were automatically drawn heavenward. Blue, it seems, is the color of this beautiful May day as nature celebrates with a sky clothed in the most brilliant hues of blue. But even the sky in all its splendor isn’t what really caught my eye. Instead, it was the feathery white brush stroke left by a big metal bird that appeared to be heading south for the summer. Now, I realize that vapor trails are a common sight on any given blue-sky day, but they hold special meaning to me. They remind me of my good friend, Neil, who left this earth way too soon; but, more than that, it reminds me that God is real. Like the rainbow is a symbol of a promise to all of us from God, the white brush stroke of an airplane is a symbol of a promise to me—a directional arrow perched in the heavens and pointing to my purpose here on earth; to write, a specific story as well as other words that lead people to that place inside themselves where God is patiently and lovingly waiting. If you haven’t already read this piece, I hope you will take some time today. It’s a true story. I know because I lived it. Oh, and, Denny found the ripcord on her parachute. God made sure of it.

Neil, you know I’ve written more in the last few years than I have my whole life. We talked about it on more than one occasion; about how clear it was that this was what God had purposed and how it was, undoubtedly, the reason for the eternal friendships that He had so carefully orchestrated between you, me and Denny.

In five short years, I’ve written page after page of happy things, sad things; of tragedy and hope. It hasn’t always been easy, but God always seems to take over and the ink will suddenly freely flow.

But, when it comes to recounting that day, now two years past, tears have always seemed to drown out the words.  And, yet, I know must try. It’s too important. It’s critical that others know just how real God is and how He orchestrates events for our greater good. The story of December 8, 2011 is proof of such. May I never forget or take for granted the love and responsibility with which God has gifted me.

The story actually started in early October when I began searching for air-fare to come for a visit just before Christmas. I was planning to fly in on Dec. 10th, which also happened to be my 50th birthday. Already struggling a bit with this milestone birthday and not wanting Denny to feel like she had to put together some sort of celebration, I thought it would be easier to just travel that day.

To paint the picture more completely for you, I had been bidding on tickets through Priceline for several weeks trying to get the best deal. For those of you who haven’t ever used Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price,” you have to submit a method of payment along with an offer for airfare on selected travel dates. If your offer is accepted, your credit card is charged and you are the sole owner of a non-refundable airline ticket.

Anyhow, somewhere around mid-October—after two weeks and a dozen or so rejected offers —I decided to try one more time, after which, if unsuccessful, I would just outright buy a ticket. I logged on and filled in all the information along with an even lower price than I had attempted before. It was a long shot, but I figured I had nothing to lose. I was ecstatic when it was accepted at almost 40 percent less than the going ticket price. God had answered yet another prayer! My desire to be there with my friends obviously lined up with His will for me.

But, wait. The departure was 7:05 a.m. December 8, 2011. December 8th?  It was supposed to be December 10th. December 10th was the dreaded birthday and the date my work vacation started. God, however, obviously had another plan and what I thought was a mistake turned out to be yet another affirmation that He is always, and in all ways, in charge.

And, so, in the early morning hours of December 8, I sat back in the seat thankful that even on a full flight I had somehow managed to get a seat all to myself. Again, there was God, showing me that He was always looking out for me and that He knew I had much to think and pray about, especially on this day.  Like how in the world I was going to get through this trip.  Barb was gone. You were very sick and Denny was quickly slipping into a pit justifiably described as hell on earth as everything she knew and loved was systematically being stripped away from her.  She was looking more and more like a female, modern day version of Job. I hurt for her, to the core of my being, I hurt.

As the stewardess stopped momentarily in front of my seat to close the overhead compartment, she gave me a sympathetic nod. My pain, obviously visible to even a stranger, quickly liquidated and turned into a stream of tears.  I had so hoped that I would get there in time to say goodbye to Barb, but instead would be attending her funeral.

Oh, my dear God, how quickly life can change. Not just Barbie, but you too. Just a few months before, you were both so full of life, running circles around me, all the while smiling the most infectious smiles I have ever seen. Now, I was on my way to Canada to say a final farewell to Barb and to be by you and Denny’s sides as you both continued to maneuver your own deep, dark valley.

I sat back in my seat, ear buds tucked tightly in my ears and cranked up the Christian tunes. There was time for a lot of prayers between the airport runways of Atlanta, Georgia and Edmonton, Alberta.  And, as soon as the plane took off, the praying commenced.

During a short layover in Denver and before boarding the final leg of my day’s journey, I texted Denny to see how she was doing. She had been pretty emotional the night before when I talked to her, but was adamant that she would be the one to pick me up at the airport. I begged her to let one of our other friends do it, but, as per usual, she got the final word and she would be there waiting for me.  Period. She didn’t reply to my text, however; and I presumed she was probably busy with Barb’s funeral planning and taking care of you.

Back on the plane, I started to get more and more anxious. Denny was going through so much heartache and seemed to be beginning to struggle a bit with her faith.  She was finding it hard to fight anymore; her strength understandably gone. Just as this illness had stripped you of your physical muscles, Denny was feeling stripped of her spiritual muscles. She still loved God. She still believed in Jesus and she still believed in heaven. In fact, those were the only things that made any sense to her at all anymore. Yet they seemed so far away and her heart continued to crumble under the weight of it all.

And here I sat on this Canada-bound airplane wondering why God would possibly interject me into the world of such wonderful people, just as your world’s began to unravel. What could I possibly do to help? What was His plan? Why you? Why me? Why now?

My mind, my heart and my emotions were swirling like a hurricane as the plane taxied down the Denver tarmac and I again turned on my music, once again getting lost in my own little world of praise, worship and prayer. About halfway through the four-hour flight, “Hold My Heart” by Tenth Avenue North came on and I was immediately transported back to exactly one summer before when my previously-planned visit turned out to be a time of support as Denny’s brother, Stevie, had tragically drowned just the week before.

“One tear in the driving rain, One voice in a sea of pain Could the maker of the stars Hear the sound of my breakin’ heart? One light, that’s all I am Right now I can barely stand. If You’re everything You say You are Won’t You come close and hold my heart.”

As the song pervaded my heart on that day in late June, I turned every word into a fervent prayer for my friend, Denny, pleading with God to please—just as the song beseeches—to come close and hold my friend’s heart.  As the song continued, I began to feel a sense of peace and then an inexplicable nudge to open my eyes and look out the window. When I did, I saw something that I shall never forget. Right there, on a canvas of deep blue sky and billowing clouds, were clouds in the distinctive shape of two strong hands gently cradling a heart. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and quickly reached for my camera, but when I looked back up, the image was gone. I may not have gotten the picture with my camera, but it was forever etched into my memory and heart to be recalled many times in the days and years to come—including that December day in 2011 as I traveled once again to see my friends.

Leaning forward in my seat, I wondered if perchance God might give me another sign. Praise and worship lyrics still dancing in my ears, I studied the clouds, but no matter how hard I tried, I saw nothing. I then looked towards the ground, thinking perhaps I would see something there. Still, nothing. I settled back into my seat disappointed, but continuing to pray when I decided to try one more time.

Sitting forward once again, I pressed my forehead to the window pane and gazed at the sky like a kid waiting for Santa to appear in the Christmas parade. The sky at this point was cloudless and there was nothing really to see when all of a sudden a streak of white shot across blue sky. It happened so quickly, I almost gave myself whiplash snapping my neck to the left to see if I could see the plane that obviously just left this trail. However, I saw nothing.  “Man, that was way too close,” I thought to myself. I didn’t think planes were allowed to fly so close to one another.  Not to mention, that thing must have flying at the speed of light. I settled back into my seat quite perplexed and a little nervous. If that was a mistake by air controllers, perhaps I should be worried. And, if it were a message from God, I didn’t get it. It was not near as obvious as my previous experience.

As I continued to ponder what it could have possibly been, the flight attendants began preparing the cabin for landing. I turned off my iPod as instructed and began stowing all of my belongings for landing. In less than a half an hour, I should be on the ground and on my way through customs. My emotions shifted from anxiety to more excitement as I knew I was about to see the people who had become so near and dear to me.

Having visited several times before, I had become somewhat of a pro at maneuvering through customs. I breezed through and, luggage in tow,  followed my fellow travelers through the concourses and hallways leading to the lobby where you and Denny usually waited for me.

Walking through the doors, I looked around for Denny. Not seeing her right away, I figured she was probably hiding around the corner and laughing at me looking around like a lost puppy. She loved to make me look like a dork and, to be fair, I often did the same to her. I loved when we would make you laugh with our silliness, and when I knew all you could do was shake your head, it made me laugh, too.

In a calculated effort to outsmart her and maintain at least a shred of my self-professed coolness, I stepped to the side and looked down at my phone. As I peered back up, I saw a couple of familiar faces walking towards me. It was Alex and Trina.

“Good,” I thought to myself, Denny had decided to take a break and ask for help. We exchanged hugs and I started into my story of how customs didn’t try to give me the third degree for once. As I used Neil’s name a few sentences in, I noticed Trina’s eyes filling with tears. Alex’s face grew dim and right there in the middle of the Edmonton Airport, I heard these words, “Brenda, Neil passed away this morning.”

Neil, I’m telling you, the world came to a screeching halt right then and there. It just couldn’t be true. Maybe I had fallen asleep on the airplane and was having a nightmare. There was no way that you could leave this earth this soon. There was no way you could leave your wife or your struggling church. There was just no way.

I began to hyperventilate as my sweet friends, themselves sobbing, guided me to a nearby chair. And, right there, in that moment, it all became clear.

I looked down at the airline ticket in my hand. The December 8th Priceline ticket I held was far from a mistake. I was pre-destined to fly in on this very day as support for my dearest friend now plunged into the darkest hour of her life.

And that streak against the sky; that was you, my sweet friend; it was you, doing a fly-by and letting me know that you were indeed ok.  I could always see the passion in your eyes when you spoke of flying; how exhilarating it was for you to play high above the earth, amidst the clouds and along the very threshold of Heaven.

Yes, my dear Neil, every single time I see an airplane etching its own beautiful, feathery brushstroke of white amongst the clouds, I think of you and I know in the deepest reaches of my heart that you live in a constant state of that same exhilaration multiplied by infinity. I thank our awesome God every single day for writing me into you and Denny’s story and for this new symbol and hope and joy.

Keep flying, my dear friend. We love you. We miss you. We will see you again, but not before we fulfill this purpose that God has placed before us and for which you played and still play a pivotal role.

But please, Neil, please ask our Dad in Heaven to guide Denny’s hand to the rip-cord on her own chute. I know that I know that she will safely land on her feet, but the freefall sometimes takes her breath away and, even today, two years later, she seems to forget.

Let this day–December 8, 2013, be the day that she feels your love and His love to such a degree that she can once again see life from your high-flying and heavenly perspective. Amen and Ehmen!

Sending much love from earth to heaven,

Brenda (aka “Wife Number 2)